Q&A with AFP’s New President and CEO
November 9, 2017
After an extensive search, AFP has a new president and CEO: Mike Geiger, MBA, CPA!
Mike was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, has more than 20 years of nonprofit leadership experience, and most recently served as executive director of the Chief Executives Organization (CEO). He brings a variety of association leadership and management skills that will be critical as the fundraising profession and the philanthropic sector continue to evolve at a breakneck pace.
You may have seen the official release, but there’s a lot more to Mike than just where he's worked. Below is a short Q&A article about Mike, his initial goals for the association and how he plans to lead AFP and the fundraising profession into the future—as well as his love of all things Games of Thrones and The Walking Dead.
Take a few minutes to get to know Mike a little better:
Q: What got you interested in the nonprofit sector?
I've always wanted to help others and contribute to the better good. I feel I have been blessed in my life and want to provide opportunities for others. I felt the best way for me to do this was by taking my management and financial skills and experience and supporting those who are on the front lines. In this way, I feel that I am doing my part in the best possible way.
Q: What was working at the Chief Executives Organization like, and what did you learn there that you can apply here?
CEO was an incredible opportunity to work with an amazing staff and incredible members. The pace is extremely fast, but there is a camaraderie amongst the team that is very special. The board leadership—which is member/volunteer based—is so high-performing, and they hold themselves to such high standards in all aspects of their lives. They consider challenges as opportunities, look at all options when addressing issues, and never shirk from tough decisions when necessary. That was the big takeaway for me: to focus on seeking opportunities everywhere, being entrepreneurial and having a "strong bias for action."
Q: What is it about AFP and its work that attracted you to the president and CEO position?
As I mentioned, I've always thought the most effective way for me to support the greater good is to be able to bring my skills and experience to support those working on the front lines of philanthropy. And what better place than AFP to do that? Our chapters and members have an extraordinary impact on their local communities, and collectively, we can move the philanthropic needle around the world. I wanted to be a part of that.
Q: Okay, you've been on the job a week! What are the highlights and challenges of running AFP?
At this point, it's all highlights and no challenges! Seriously though, there are two highlights so far: everyone I have met—staff and leadership alike—are incredibly committed to the mission, and flowing from that dedication is this palpable sense of teamwork amongst the staff. When you have those two ingredients in an organization, you can achieve anything and everything.
It's probably a little early to speak to the specific challenges. In the short term, it is learning how all the different parts of AFP contribute to meeting our mission, and certainly there are issues related to education, public policy, diversity and inclusion, to name a few, that we need to keep addressing. But for me, those fall under the big overarching challenge to provide continuing and evolving value to our members—to anticipate our members' needs, to go where they are and to raise the bar every day.
Q: What do you want AFP to look like in five years?
As I said on Day One to the staff, I want AFP to be the authoritative voice and resource for our members, our chapters and the philanthropic community at large. I envision AFP being the organization that leads, supports and drives the conversations surrounding effective and ethical fundraising. I want us to be inclusive, diverse and tolerant as we strive to advance the profession through innovation and remain at the forefront of philanthropy.
Q: How would you describe your leadership style?
I’m very collaborative and not a micro manager—everyone who works with me needs to execute their roles at a very high level with high standards. I’m there to help and support the team, to be a sounding board whenever needed, to provide guidance, to encourage and to challenge the team to bring out the best of everyone. Likewise, I too want to be challenged and pushed by the team—the dynamic has to flow both ways or we won't be as effective as we can.
Q: What is your proudest accomplishment as a leader?
Building trust and taking care of my teams through tough times and complicated projects. It is easy to lead when everything is going well. But when it's not, do you look out for your team and your organization, and do they trust you will be there for them? If you do, then that's leadership.
Q: Is there a book, presentation or other resource that has highly influenced you and your outlook as a nonprofit leader?
There are too many to list here, but one I’ve loved recently is a book by the incredible restauranteur Danny Meyer called Setting the Table. It’s about how to succeed in the hospitality industry, but the big message is about taking care of your people. Race for Relevance and Leaders Eat Last are two books I would also highly recommend.
Q: More personally, care to talk about any charitable causes that are near and dear to your heart?
Two areas of great interest: First, my wife works for our church in Vienna, Virginia, and through the church, we are focused on human trafficking, which is a huge issue in the Northern Virginia area. Secondly, our daughter suffered several concussions throughout her high school basketball career and one of the big side effects is depression. My family has seen that first-hand, so that's an issue very near and dear to us.
Q: When you’re not being president and CEO of AFP, how are you spending your time?
My family and friends take up whatever is left of my day. My wife and I have a daughter at the University of Miami (Go 'Canes!) and a son at Marshall High School here in Virginia. When I’m not helping with homework, counseling teenage issues, or checking off the personal to-do list, then I’m just enjoying being with our friends, traveling, and playing tennis. Just not enough time in the day!
Q: Show(s) you absolutely must watch, binge-style or otherwise?
Game of Thrones! Is there really anything else out there? The Walking Dead is a good second, but the biggest issue is time.
Q: What were your initial impressions of the United States when you immigrated here?
I like to tell the story of being impressed that I could go to 7-11 at three a.m. in the morning for some exotic flavor of ice-cream—not that I did, but just that I could! Of course, "exotic flavor" meant to me at the time something other than vanilla, chocolate or strawberry. That sums it up: the opportunities and availability of "stuff"—mostly in a good way—were overwhelming, especially for a kid from Copenhagen in the early 1980s.
Thanks for spending some time chatting with us, Mike! We know we'll be hearing more from you in the near future through articles, blogs, and chapter visits.
You can now follow Mike on Twitter at @AFPMikeGeiger, where he’ll be updating you on the work of AFP and providing links to helpful articles and resources. And if you have any questions or comments for Mike, please always feel free to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.